Revival da lingua Gallaic Gallaic Revival



History "Origins"

This page will be updated as History 2 soon to take into account recent ancient DNA studies.

We do not know when the Gallaic language ceased to be used, however one of the Latin inscriptions on the Late Iron Age Warrior Statues of Galicia and northern Portugal dates to the 17th century AD (González-Ruibal, 2004 after Koch 2003). Such inscriptions contain some Gallaic words. The language of an intriguing inscription found recently on the 14th century AD foundations of a church in Galicia is problematic. Previously, the last Celtic language known to be spoken by a community in the Iberian peninsula was Brythonic (the ancestor of Breton, Cornish and Welsh) in the region known as Britonia in northern Galicia and western Asturias from the 5th to the 7th century AD (perhaps as late as 900 AD when the see of Britonia ceased to exist) which had received settler refugees from Brittany or direct from Britain fleeing the Saxons (Jose Calvete in Koch and Minard 2012, pages 369 and 370 with map). Ealier, Gallaecian Christian priest and historian, Paulus Orosius wrote in 417 AD that the Galician city of Brigantia had a direct relationship with Ireland and Irish contact is further shown by the Celtic Christian monastery of Santa Maria de Bretona near Mondonedo which was included in the episocopate of Britonia (Cunliffe 1999, page 266) so the earlier part of this late Celtic language presence in Galicia may have been Gaelic Irish at least amongst the priesthood.

The Roman invasion and occupation of Gallaecia around 50 AD was accompanied with the adoption of the Latin language by some Gallaecians, however Latin inscriptions, spanning 50 AD to the 17th century AD, made on the Late Iron Age Warrior Statues of Gallecia contain some embedded Gallaic Celtic words indicating survival in some sense of the Gallaic Celtic language for a considerable time after Roman conquest (González-Ruibal, 2004, Prósper 2002, 2005).

Ancient Greek historian Herodotus in his "The History of Herodotus" Book 2 verse 34 written in 440 BC states that: "The Celts live beyond the pillars of Hercules [now Gibraltar], and border on the Cynesians, who dwell at the extreme west of Europe." This is repeated in Book 4 verse 48. (Herodotus 440 BC). The Cynesians lived between the rier Anas (now called Guadiana) and the Sacrum Promontorium (Sagres), so the location for people called the 'Celts' (KELTOI in Greek) is on or near the stretch of Coast between the Straits of Gibraltar and the present day Spanish-Portuguese border. Neither passage in the Histories states or implies that the KELTOI were newcomers to the south-west Iberian peninsula in the 5th. century BC. It is probable that these south-western KELTOI spoke a Celtic language as their name implies. It is also clear-cut linguistically that the group name of the neighbouring Cynesians to the west in Portugal (called KUNETES in Greek, Latinised to Cynetes, also Conii) is derived from the Celtic word for 'hound', figuratively 'hero'. (Koch 2011 page 29).

Large and extensive amounts of Hallstatt coarse stamped pottery dated to around 800 BC have been found in Portugal and Spain, in particular South-west Portugal and the main river valleys and highlands of Andalusia in Spain indicating a dense Celtic settlement which would become the basis for the Tartessian civilisation; Galicia and Asturias similarly. This archaeological evidence for dense Celtic settlement in Portugal and Spain is backed up by the writings of ancient historians such as Ephorus and Herodotus who mention such settlements specifically " as Cadiz".

However, a number of indicators are telling us that Celtic settlement may be much more ancient than that in this region. There are ancient Celtic placenames in NW Africa that appear to be only explicable by the distribution of the Bell Beaker culture. The most ancient Bell Beakers are the Maritime Bell Beakers originating around the Tagus River estuary in Portugal around 2,900 BC and spreading rapidly by migration to other parts of Europe and North Africa by sea and river. Ancient DNA extracted from Bell Beaker people's graves have shown that the males carry the Y-DNA haplogroup R1b M-269 mutation thought to mark the spread of Celtic populations. Genetic studies of the present population of Huelva near Seville in southern Spain have suggested that the area was more likely the source area for other populations of Western Europe rather than being an oultier. On the map below the close fit between Bell Beaker culture and Celtic language distribution is shown. The epicentre origin of the Beaker culture is clearly shown around the Tagus estuary in Portugal as is the Gallicia-Asturias-North Portugal Gallaecian and Meseta Spain Celtiberian area and the nucleus of the Tartessian civilization as major nodes of occurrence of International Beaker styles. This fit becomes even much closer when ancient Celtic place and group names indicating what are thought to be ancient Celtic substratum populations are factored in such as the Saguntum on the Mediterranean coast north of Valencia; Ebora, Segida, Saguntia and Ebora in the Tartessian zone south and east of the Guadalquivir River; and Rutubis, Uobrix, Uerbikes and Uerueis in northern and Atlantic Morocco (Koch 2011).

How the Celtic Languages developed and spread

Bards of the Cornish Gorsedd, Joy (Cherya) and Chris (Kevrenor) Dunkerley, compiled this research report published in "The Newsletter of the Cornish Association of New South Wales", Australia (No. 348, Circulation 110, ISSN 1321-3199, December 2013-January 2014) and reproduced here with their permission. This is how they understand it from the evidence at hand. Please see "Celtic from the West" and "Celtic from the West 2" for more details on this line of thought. Another interesting paper along these lines is Celtic Origins: Iberian Connections by Seamus Hamill-Keays.